North Carolina head coach Roy Williams finally got the monkey off his back last year by winning his first national championship in 17 seasons. But faced now with an unprecedented challenge, Williams' job may just now be getting difficult.
Gone from the Tar Heels' roster are lottery picks Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May, the trio of juniors central to North Carolina's championship run last season. Also departed is sensational freshman Marvin Williams who opted for NBA riches over a second season in Chapel Hill.
"We've never had anything like this," Williams said. "I can never remember a time when we lost more than three starters in my entire coaching career, and if we did, we still had some guys coming back who could really play."
Senior David Noel, who scored fewer than four points per game last season, is the Tar Heels' leading returning scorer. Nobody else on North Carolina's roster averaged more than seven minutes a game last season, making this season's Tar Heels' squad one of the most inexperienced teams in NCAA history. No national championship team has ever lost its top seven scorers after the season.
"It's funny because everyone I've talked to over the past couple of weeks has said, 'Well, what do you expect?' or 'Are you going to be able to do this?' and 'Do you think this will happen?'" Williams said. "I'm being very honest and the answer is, 'I don't know'."
Nobody can help Williams answer that question better than Noel, the only returning member of the Tar Heels' regular rotation from last season. Noel said he is looking to quadruple his scoring and rebounding outputs from last season in order to keep the Tar Heels on top. In addition, junior Reyshawn Terry will get his first opportunity to be a top scorer after being rated as scout.com's best high school player in North Carolina three seasons ago.
If the Tar Heels are going to be successful this season, they must rely on a talented group of freshmen. Preseason ACC Freshman of the Year Tyler Hansbrough headlines a top-notch recruiting class that will be asked to provide scoring and depth to North Carolina's depleted roster.
Similar to last season's up-tempo style, Williams will make the inexperienced Tar Heels run to take advantage of his young team's athleticism.
"We don't have a proven scorer period, and we definitely don't have a proven scorer inside," Williams said. "I think it's important that you can score in a half-court offense, but if you can't you'd better try to score in an open-court kind of thing where there's not as much traffic."
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